The inside story of why we launched Big Bash League
Exclusive Roar guest column by Mike McKenna, of Cricket Australia, Big Bash League project owner. McKenna responds to The Roar to explain Cricket Australia’s concept and direction for the new domestic Twenty20 competition, which prompted strong debate on the site.
“The Big Bash League discussion has certainly stirred up a lot of passionate interest and opinions over the past week. But this passion shows Aussie fans love their cricket.
So what is going on?
Big picture: adult Australia loves cricket; but the game has an opportunity to build interest and appeal with young fans who prefer Twenty20 cricket.
Ditto, on female Australia. There’s one female cricket fan for every two men who know the score. Compare cricket’s appeal to women with that of the AFL and even NRL and you can see the opportunity / imperative.
The experience here and elsewhere shows that Twenty20 appeals to young boys and girls, and it appeals to women.
Second issue: Australian cricket is unusual in that it relies heavily on the international game to generate the revenue we use to invest in growing the game.
Most sports are supported by their domestic competitions, with international revenue the cream on top. In cricket, it’s the opposite.
Why is that a worry? We get edgy that all our eggs are in one basket. We need sustainable domestic cricket and that might even reduce our reliance on international cricket.
Here’s some of the detail behind some of the questions we’re hearing.
Why franchise-based teams when there are well-established state teams?
For a couple of reasons. To reach kids, we need cricket that doesn’t look like the cricket they know. And the competition will possibly end up with ten or even more teams and we don’t have ten states.
Why not Geelong, or other regionals?
Geelong in particular put in a cracker of a bid. But we need a strong launching pad and two teams in two major venues in Melbourne, a city on track to become Australia’s biggest city, is a strong starting point.
But regional Australia doesn’t have a team to follow?
I‘ve spent heaps of time in country Victoria, NSW and QLD and it is full of die-hard Bombers, Magpies, Broncos and Dragons fans who have never lived in, and possibly hardly ever visited, those towns or suburbs the teams represent.
Is this just a grab for Indian money?
No. It is designed for Australian fans. The Big Bash League’s revenue will come mainly from Australia. Yes, Indian investors are interested in minority stakes, and there might even be some Indian sponsors appearing on team shirts, but the main audience and income is from Australia.
Why force fans to lose their local stars to Big Bash League teams elsewhere?
The eight new teams each need enough good players to be competitive. Currently about 30% of state players are playing for different states to where they started (a couple have as many as 50%). We and the ACA are crunching through some issues but we are fairly close to figuring it out.
But won’t this kill Test cricket skills?
No. The same was said of 50-over cricket when it was invented. Talk to Greg Chappell: as a youngster confronted with the new ODI format, he found it improved his skills and made him a better bat. But yes, it will still be important to teach kids the core fundamentals of cricket before they go on to become a Twenty20, ODI, Test, or maybe an all-formats’ player.
Ultimately our position is that Twenty20 needs to complement not compromise international cricket.”
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